The New Year saw the establishment of a Chair in Crop Health at Stellenbosch University (SU), thanks to funding of R10.5 million provided by Villa Crop Protection. Its endeavours to focus on research driven by the needs of industry, the education and financial support of students and the provision of further skills training for employees in the agricultural sector. Prof Nick Kotze, chair of the SU Department of Agronomy, leads the initiative.
The Chair in Crop Health is a first for South African agriculture. The local crop protection industry is worth around R9 billion rand at wholesale level. Villa Crop Protection is one of the leading suppliers of crop protection solutions to distributors in South Africa.
At an event signalling the signing of a three-year contract between SU and Villa Crop Protection, Prof Eugene Cloete, SU vice-rector: research, innovation and postgraduate studies, said that such industry support helps to create an environment of hope and excellence for students and for South Africa alike.
“Such private sector support helps to ensure that our university does research that is relevant, and in turn helps to strengthen industry," he added.
“This is a major collaborative effort, and will see the integration of industry needs, industry partners and industry grower bodies with the work that our researchers and postgraduate students do," adds Prof Kotze.
Key functions earmarked for this agreement include:
- Identifying and prioritising specific farm level grower research needs, and addressing it through targeted scientific research done by postgraduate students and their academic supervisors;
- The provision of relevant postgraduate bursaries to the tune of R1 million per year, to support the training of future agriculturalists who are equipped with the necessary knowledge tools needed by the local agricultural sector; and
- The roll-out of accredited short courses by Stellenbosch University to expand the skill levels of agriculturalists already working in the local industry.
“The education leg of this endeavour strives not only to augment formal qualifications, but also to ensure continuous training options for agriculturalists and others already working in the local industry," says Dr Andre Schreuder, on behalf of Villa Crop Protection.
The envisaged accredited short courses to be presented through the Chair in Crop Health will build on short courses, certificate and diploma courses previously developed by the Villa Academy. Lecturers from Stellenbosch University will be supported by others previously contracted by Villa Academy, as well as international colleagues from leading universities overseas.
Prof Kotze hopes to be able to facilitate the set up a Crop Protection Diagnostics hub in the near future, which will see the pooling of resources by plant pathologists, entomologists, virologists, and weed experts in the SU Faculty of AgriSciences and beyond.
The initiative will be supported by an advisory board.
- Photo caption: A new Chair in Crop Health has been established at Stellenbosch University (SU) thanks to funding by Villa Crop Protection. The signing was attended by (in front) Dr Andre Schreuder (Villa Crop Protection), Prof Eugene Cloete (SU vice-rector: research, innovation and postgraduate studies), and (back row) Prof Nick Kotze (SU Department of Agronomy) and Marius Boshoff (Villa Crop Protection). Photographer: Stefan Els/SU
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Prof Nick Kotze
Chair in Crop Health
Department of Agronomy
Dr Andre Schreuder.
Villa Crop Protection
More about Villa Crop Protection
The foundations of the company were already laid in 1989. It has since grown into one of the leading suppliers of crop protection solutions to distributors in South Africa. In its first commercial venture in Africa, the Fortune 250 global agribusiness and food company Land O'Lakes in 2015 acquired majority ownership of Villa Crop Protection. Land O' Lakes, with its headquarters in America.
More about the Faculty of AgriSciences, Stellenbosch University
The faculty was established more than 100 years ago and is ranked among the Top 100 agrisciences faculties in the world. It is currently the only one dedicated to agricultural sciences at a university in South Africa.